You are very likely marketing your business in a less than inspiring way. I sure was.
Do you spend a lot of time talking about your clones, soil, or special barrel regimes? How your particular Chardonnay is long in the palate or perfectly balanced? And tend to highlight that you've been doing it for 10, 20 or 50 years? If the answer is yes, then your marketing needs to be more captivating.
The 15 minute TED Talk by Simon Sinek linked below stopped me in my tracks. (Warning, watching it will likely be both exhausting and invigorating.)
Before watching Sinek deliver his presentation, when approached by prospective clients and asked questions about our agency, we would highlight our strong relationships, proven results and processes, regular results reporting and constant cycle of seeking continuous improvement in everything we do. Etc. etc.
All of this is still true; it just isn't a compelling reason to invest in our services. That's because Sinek argues that people buy your WHY, not your HOW or WHAT.
The good news is that your WHY is likely a pretty clear vision with which to reconnect. It goes right to the heart of your company. WHY do you love what you do? WHY does your company bring you joy? WHY did you start it in the first place?
In our case, our clients do not buy the HOW we do it (our cultivation of strong relationships, industry expertise, benchmarking results, hundreds of communications with journalists monthly) nor WHAT they receive (increased recognition, high ROI measured in earned media value, increased demand).
Instead, the businesses who are a fit with our family of clients connect with WHY we do what we do. They want to work with a wine focused PR agency that is inspired and driven by their WHY, and people who derive pleasure from cultivating the relationships necessary to achieve recognition for their vision.
Interestingly, understanding this produced a common thread amongst all of our clients -- something bigger than bringing delicious wine and food to market. Such as a deep desire to create a legacy, share joy, provide for others, or create a community or culture. Perfectly, really swallowing this makes for much better storytelling, which is WHAT we do.
It makes my day everytime one of our clients is featured by the journalists who work so diligently to bring compelling stories to their readers. What makes your day as a business owner?
What is your leadership style and how does it inspire (or deflate) your team? A winery's culture is influenced by its team members, but begins with the owner or operator's vision for leadership. As many proprietors enter the industry with a vision to make (rather than sell) wine, leadership style may be a secondary consideration or ignored all together. Those who do thoughtfully construct a vision and corresponding plan to achieve it tend to enjoy better results according to my experience in the industry.
A recent HBS article by Mitch Maidique examines the six styles of leadership as determined by his Purpose-Driven model. For wineries with complex teams including vineyard, production, sales, finance and marketing, the Level 5 Builder is my recommendation. This style looks beyond the Achiever at level 4, who is driven by goal setting and winning, adding a broader approach to "build an institution". A Builder never reaches the end point-- successful and motivating leadership is a process that requires research, planning, motivation for execution, and reflection. Builders "...have a grand vision for the future of their organizations, and they infect others with their energy, enthusiasm, and integrity."
Maidique notes that people are a blend of the six styles, so there is an element of nature versus nurture at work -- personality and choice affect leadership style. Since leadership is both a process and mindset, it is important to be aware of your leadership tendencies, and develop a proactive plan to become or enhance the style that will best suit your business.
Some of my favorite books on leadership include John Wooden'sWooden on Leadership and Good to Great by Jim Collins. Gaining knowledge about leadership best practices is an excellent start. The next step is to use independent research to evaluate your company's leadership strengths and challenges, cooperation between team members, and cultural dynamic. I thoroughly enjoy offering these services and learn immensely each time I'm involved in a visionary project.
In a recent HBS working paper, Linda Hill, Harvard business school professor and author of the widely read, Becoming a Manager, discusses her latest book, Being the Boss. She outlines three imperatives for managers including self management, team management and network management. Hill also critiques relying on formal authority as a management technique. I look forward to reading her new book and in the meantime, give some thought to what it means to be a boss versus a manager versus or leader.
The word "boss" has always bothered me. It isn't encouraging and seems somewhat dismissive. Perhaps this is because I've heard too many "bosses" use phrases like "because I'm the boss" or ask "who is the boss" rhetorically when their authority is questioned.
It takes only a title to be a boss. To be a manager, you must have a philosophy of team building and development, and work to create an environment that breeds success. To be a leader, you must additionally have a compelling vision and a glowing energy or attractive force made possible by your love of and respect for the "game" and your "players". In the latter two cases, formal authority is rarely, if ever used.
In addition to a compelling vision and motivational style, a strong leader engages his team in creating goals and expectations. When these are co-created versus handed down, "buy in", or true commitment is possible. Once there is a clear game plan, a leader creates a measurement and rewards system, and processes for providing and receiving regular constructive feedback. A strong leader encourages and models integrity, open communication, respect and commitment. She celebrates successes and seeks to gain knowledge from failure versus judge or over react. She works with humility, understanding and empathy, but balances these humanist values with strong business focus. And most of all, she is always learning, seeking to improve her understanding, skill and knowledge base.
Wineries operate with many different structures. Smaller ventures tend to have the "mom and pop" (or just mom or pop) doing everything from vinifying to selling to books. Medium-sized wineries typically either have a President, GM or shared management team, and larger corporations employ officers with ranks of reporting teams and divisions. In every structure type, there is a primary role for the leader or leadership team -- creating and helping implement the vision.
I often write about the importance of operating with a strategic business plan. At the heart of these plans is the leader's vision for success and his or her plan for achieving it. In a recent Silicon Valley Bank blog, Raymond Nasr, Director of Wine Programs, discusses "What Makes Entrepreneurs and Winemakers Tick". He identifies three common elements -- Tradition, Absolute Trust and Struggle, and cites examples of best practices in the tech and wine industries.
Wineries are typically pretty good at developing Tradition given the annual celebration of harvest and natural inclination to share great meals with beautiful wines. It's a fun, passionate industry so tradition is almost a given. The only structure type where I've witnessed struggle with meaningful traditions is the corporate winery given the constant M&A activity, role changing and other factors.
Wineries are also naturals at incorporating the Struggle element. Any time Mother Nature is a key player in an industry, there is challenge. Add vineyard maturity, the relative high cost of goods sold and slow inventory turn, and incredible competition necessitating investment in brand marketing and sales, to the equation and the industry is ripe with struggle.
What I find lacking in many wine businesses, especially in small to medium-sized organizations, is the Absolute Trust part of Nasr's equation. To have absolute trust among people, there must be a compelling vision and plan to achieve it. Many operators in the industry are most concerned with the art of producing wine -- not the equally important art and business of selling it. This tendency can create additional financial strain and risk, and human resource issues, further adding to the Struggle and eroding Tradition.
In my practice, I help wineries improve Absolute Trust in three steps: 1)by creating or helping to create a vision and strategic plan; 2) then developing specific goals and performance incentives tied to the plan, which helps focus and align teams; 3) and finally, designing processes to track progress, celebrate successes and swiftly and professionally deal with challenges.
When you have a fully engaged, high performing team, beyond expectations results are both possible and common! And that this starts with the vision and plan should be inspiring to owners and operators -- it's very doable, just a matter of whether you are willing to commit to the process.
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